On Friday, the California state legislature enacted the ban on plastic bags. The only missing step now is that the measure be signed into law, making the legislature become the first such law in the United States.
The battle has been ongoing and while several cities have succeeded in banning the use of plastic grocery bags (several Californian cities, Maui County in Hawaii and many others), on a state level, the measure has been greatly opposed by plastic bag makers.
The bill was voted on by the Californian Senate (22 to 15) and what remains now is that the bill be signed into law on the 30th of September by Democratic Governor Jerry Brown. He has not signaled any position on the measure until now.
Senator Alex Padilla, the main sponsor of the bill, explained that the use of plastic bags litter beaches, mountains, deserts, lakes, streams and rivers in the United States and insisted that action must be taken to prevent this.
Last year, Senator Padilla attempted to back a similar measure but failed by three votes. After the bill received the support of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, the bill passed the second vote in the state’s Assembly (after having failed three votes short on Monday).
The bill would have grocery stores no longer provide single-use grocery bags and support plastic bag manufacturers in retooling so as to make multiple-use bags that customers could acquire at a certain cost.
Environmentalists have been pushing for this measure for a long time. Plastic bags are indeed cheaper for supermarkets as opposed to paper bags, but they create unrecyclable mountains of trash. The bill is more important in California because the risk exists that plastic bags that haven’t been properly disposed of could wash away to sea and harm ocean life.
It was only after Padilla included the funding of the retooling that he received the support of several plastic bag manufacturers. However, in recent months, plastic bag makers have begun to lobby against the bill and have even produced TV advertisements targeting Padilla.
General managers of plastic bag manufacturers, such as Cathy Browne from Crown Poly, insisted that such a bill would lead to many layoffs in companies such as hers.
An estimate made by Californians Against Waste, an environmentalist group advocating for the signing of the bill, show that yearly, more than 10 billion plastic bags are used in states like California.